Enslaved African Americans working in the city's sugar refineries built Alexandria into the country's third-largest sugar producer in the early 19th century. In 1807, Jacob Hoffman built the city's second refinery on North Washington Street, diagonally northeast of the Alfred Street Sugar House built in 1804. Hoffmann, a German merchant and importer who became mayor of Alexandria, lived in the elegant brick house next door later known as the Lloyd House.
The 13 enslaved African Americans - some as young as eight years old - who worked in the four-story brick refinery in 1810 probably lived in the basement, attic, and outbuildings of Hoffman's house. Census records suggest that enslaved individuals performed all the physical labor at Alexandria's antebellum sugar refineries, which at their peak produced 800,000 pounds of sugar a year. This involved boiling the raw muscovado that enslaved Africans on Caribbean plantations had extracted from the sugar cane. Refinery workers added sticky bull's blood or egg albumen to the liquid, then skimmed it off to remove impurities. They then poured the liquid into rows of large earthenware cones, where it cooled as the water evaporated. Molasses, a by-product, was drained off and stored in earthenware jars. The white sugar cones that remained were then drilled out and wrapped in paper.
Competition from northern cities eventually edged Alexandria out of the sugar industry, and the Hoffman refinery ended production in the early 1820s. At that time Hoffman manumitted five African Americans, some of whom may have been refinery workers who purchased their own freedom when the refinery closed: James Minor, about 40 years old; Anthony Minor, 30; Fortune Ann Minor, 32; Pleasant James, 38; and William Brannan, 36.
In 1832, the Hoffman residence was purchased by John Lloyd, a local merchant married to one of Robert E. Lee's cousins. The family owned the house until 1918. Following the Civil War the house was confiscated by the federal government, and from 1865-1868 it housed the Alexandria office of the Freedmen's Bureau.
Although all of the refinery's structures have been torn down, the residence still stands at 220 N. Washington St. Built in 1797 by John Wise, who also built Gadsby's Tavern, the Lloyd House is an excellent example of late 18th-century Georgian architecture.
A fine brick house, icehouse, garden, brick sugar refinery, and two-story warehouse constituted the Hoffman estate. The sugar house was five to six stories high. Hoffman's residence was separated from the sugar house by a garden. Although all refinery structures have been torn down, the Hoffman residence (Lloyd House) still stands and is owned by the Alexandria Historical Restoration & Preservation Commission.
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222 N. Washington Street